User experience design should always be at the core of developing any product or service. There is no success without users or customers, but we tend to forget this.
The difference between the success or failure of the product is usually in what we think the user needs vs what the user genuinely wants. For example, the customer doesn’t want to buy a hammer to own it; they want to hang their favourite picture. That is his goal & a hammer is a tool that will help achieve it.
But how to know what is that the user really wants? Well, the simplest answer is always the best. Ask!
Simple, right? Yes, simple, but underneath this simplicity is a set of complex processes called User Experience Design. Set of precisely designed & helpful tools used to find out exactly what the users want, what they like, what frustrates them, what are their goals, context, behaviours.
As a UX designer, I always follow this process of discovery before I start any project. Even simple surveys, competition benchmarking, or research can be the difference between products’ success or failure.
It has always been a very exciting step for me. The discovery stage is where it all begins after the initial idea. This is a step where I want to find out what we are building, for who, how it is meant to work, feel, & look.
Here, I’m gathering all information from all stakeholders & potential customers. I’m performing interviews, observing users’ behaviours & preparing questionnaires. I’m checking similar products & services to find out what they do right or wrong.
At this stage, I’m trying to find out as much as I can in terms of product usability, desirability, feasibility & viability.
Creating mind maps, mood boards & performing car sorting to try to make sense of it all.
This stage can be very messy & I’m always ending up with a bunch of research documents, data (qualitative & quantitative), images, post notes, screenshots, ideas, stakeholders requirements & sketches.
With all that gathered, it’s time for another stage!
Here are some tasks that must be completed in the research stage (at least some of them depending on the complexity of the project or product):
Below are some of the UX Heuristics (best practices) that I’m always striving to follow when designing any experience.
This is the stage where I’m sorting all research into digestible chunks. Then, based on earlier gathered data from research, I create Affinity Diagrams to group relevant issues, problems, fixes & features. My goal is to end up with a clear understanding of what I’m designing, how it suppose to work, who is going to be using it, how it’s going to be used, on what device, what the product features are going to be & many more questions will have to be answered within this stage.
Also, at this stage, I have a great set of tools at my disposal to define user goals, context & behaviours. Among the most useful are User journey & User scenarios.
Based on all of those, I create documents that include all information needed for the next step, Design!
This is one of the most enjoyable & liked steps by any creative person. It is the stage when I start putting on paper everything I defined in the last stage.
The first task is to create User Flow Diagrams to map all possible steps that the user will have to take to achieve a goal. Each interaction, each mouse click, each page or feature he has to go through have to be taken into consideration. It is at this stage where I still can make corrections to flow, try to find the best ways to cut it short & remove unnecessary clutter.
Once this is done, I’m onto sitemap to plan out all applications or web pages of the project. To see where features & components are going to fit in logical & easy to access matter. Again during this task, I might re-think or remove some of the elements to make it more usable for the customer.
Next stop, “Thumbnails”. Those are application or web sketches on paper. Here I’m putting every element on paper to see where to best place them. I’m visualising all interactions with cta’s, where to put text, images, buttons, what element needs to go & where. As I said earlier, pure fun 😉
With all the thumbnails done, I have a good idea of how the product will look, roughly all elements are sketched out & I’m ready to create some wireframes (low fidelity mockups). Usually, using Moqups, I create a more detailed version of thumbnails. At this stage, I’m still moving things around, adding or removing elements, trying to visualise how everything is going to look on different devices.
With that finished, it’s time to create some medium or high fidelity mockups, usually in Photoshop. I’m trying to create the best static reflection of the final product, with colours, stock images, right size text, graphics & form elements.
All those thumbnails, wireframes & mockups are not only for me but also for stakeholders to know the progress & visibility of the project and, most importantly, to perform user testing. Before creating a functional prototype, based on those mockups, I can gather early feedback that can help me make changes & alterations to the project. That approach is cost-effective as making changes to live product can be extremely expensive & this might be again the difference between success or failure of said product.
When feedback is gathered, and changes are made, it’s time for the next step – Prototyping.
In this step I’m usually designing:
- User Flow Diagrams
- Wireframes (Low fidelity)
- Mockups (medium & high fidelity)
In this stage, we create medium & high fidelity prototypes for user testing purposes.
At this stage, I’m designing either a medium-fidelity prototype (restricted functionality) or high fidelity prototype (fully functional) of the product or service. Most of the crucial elements need to be present in said prototype, along with functionality, content & features. Using Adobe XD, I’m designing everything that will very closely represent live products so I can have the most accurate feedback from User Testing.
This is one of the most crucial steps in the process & I can’t stress enough how important it is for any project.
Next stop. Validating.
It’s time to send a prototype of our product out there and find out how it’s received.
This is a step where we are finding out if what we’ve created has any use for our customers. It’s time to hear the truth. Because we are not designing it for ourselves or people we work with, but for our users, we need their validation, we need their feedback, we need to ask them if what we have built is usable.
This step is very important & can’t be missed. It might take time & effort but not doing it might cost the company a fortune or even have a catastrophic result.
Performing usability testing, observational testing, A/B testing or even survey will give the most valuable feedback on the product. Will give us information if our idea is solving users problems, or frustrates them if our elements & features are usable in real life or did we miss the mark. From that feedback we learn, we know how to change it to match customer needs.
When all data & customer comments are gathered & documented, I need to go back to the drawing board, to the Design stage. That is why those steps are iterative. Every cycle has to be done again & again until we have a prototype that our users are happy with & find useful.
Then & only then we can start building the final product. That will be our next step.
At this stage, we are building the final product that we want to put on the market. Everything that was done so far was leading to this moment. At this stage, we know exactly what we are building. We gathered feedback & based on it, we know that this is the product our customers want & will use.
But before we are going to go live with it, there is one more step to go through. One final (or maybe not) stage.
In this stage, we are performing what some call a “sanity check” for the last time before going live. Set usability tests or observational tests to ensure we didn’t miss anything and have exactly what the user needs. This is to have peace of mind that we’ve done everything possible for the product to be a success, but most importantly, to have the last round of feedback so we still can come back & fix things if needed.
And that is it, end of the road. Not really; even after the solution or product goes live, I’m still going to be gathering feedback, see how it is performing & are users happy with it. We did everything we could for it to be useful, but there is always room for improvement.
So I design, test, learn, improve, design, test…
It’s a never-ending circle, but that is why I ♥ it 🙂